TransARTation! Wandering Texts, Travelling Objects 2017

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is a travelling exhibition of translated ‘objects’, translation workshops, artists’ talks and site-specific works that opens up a space for artists, poets, writers and communities to explore ideas about translation and art in a variety of ways.  And what is better than a travelling show to start an exploration of translation, in the way this reflects how texts and ideas travel and migrate across geographical, cultural and fictional spaces.

Scotland: 31 March-8 April 2017

The Byre Theatre,

The University of St Andrews, 

Abbey Street, St Andrews,

Fife KY16 9LA

 

England: 12 April-6 May 2017, 

The Shoe Factory Social Club  

St Mary’s Works – St Mary’s Plain,

Norwich NR3 3AF

Translation is a far-reaching activity, albeit often an invisible one. Translation operates both as  practice and as a metaphor. As a practice, it is the process which allows stories and ideas to travel freely between peoples and cultures. As a metaphor, the notion of translation as a journey, a moving-across, a transformation, or an interpretive juggling act is often conjured up in discussions that explore nationhood, identity, politics, but also creativity. Increasingly, translation is being recognised as a transdisciplinary activity, drawing upon and contributing to a whole range of ideas and practices that include, but can go far beyond, taking a text from one language into another. As artists and writers produce work inspired by translation, the exhibition also explores questions of displacement, cultural difference, migration and identity.

The exhibition brings together a heterogeneous group of artists, including writers of texts and translations, poets, visual artists, multimedia artists and performers, creating the opportunity for insightful and fruitful collaboration across the board, challenging the idea of artistic compartmentalisation.

Perhaps most significantly, this exhibition brings together British and international artists, including British artists and writers residing in European cities, highlighting how both literature and art naturally transcend national boundaries, and how both seek to shape inclusive societies and cultural commons.

The exhibition is complemented by a series of associated talks and participatory art workshops. The aim of these is to foster public engagement and community involvement in investigating how translation, understood from all angles, stimulates and provokes the production of text-objects and works of visual art.

 

transartation_logowants to democratize culture and creativity, and see in these the power to contribute to an inclusive society, bringing together communities. In this sense, our translation-objects and workshops are fully participatory, allowing audiences to engage creatively with art, literature and language, and intellectually with ideas of translation, culture and, finally, of society.

It is an opportunity for artists, translators and the public to engage with translation in all its dimensions. For more information about contributing artists, opening times and associated events please visit www.transartation.com

TransARTation! is a free, participatory arts event devised and curated by

Manuela Perteghella, Eugenia Loffredo and Anna Milsom

We hope to see you there!

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lottery_Logo_Black RGBImage result for st andrews uni logo

 

art-poetry by Colin Campbell Robinson

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the dogen variations are inspired by Dogen’s Eihei Koroku

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dogen 4dogen 5dogen 6

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dogen 9dogen 10dogen 11dogen 12dogen 13

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Colin Campbell Robinson is an Australian writer and photographer currently living and working in the Celtic extremity of Kernow. Recently his work has appeared in Otoliths, BlazeVox 15, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Futures Trading, E-ratio, and Molly Bloom 11 among others. Knives Forks and Spoons Press will be publishing his collection Blue Solitude – a self-portrait in six scenarios in January 2017.

Imaginations of Translation

Guest book review by Paschalis Nikolaou

Transfiction: Research into the Realities of Translation FictionEdited by Klaus Kaindl and Karlheinz Spitzl.

Early on in this exciting collection of essays originating from the 1st International Conference on Fictional Translators in Literature and Film, held in September 2011 at the University of Vienna, one of the editors, Klaus Kaindl, registers why we now see so much evidence of the age-old relationship between translation and writing creatively: a ‘transposition from the textual to the social sphere turned translation into a key concept for describing social processes, particularly of today’s globalization’ (p. 2); before agreeing with Dirk Delabatista that we are now dealing with a ‘master metaphor’. This volume is a thorough investigation into the use of ‘translation-related phenomena’ in fiction, and at the same time draws on an impressive range of theoretical work in translation studies and beyond – including Susan Bassnett, Sherry Simon, Michael Cronin and not least previous publications, such as the 2005 special issue of Linguistica Antverpiensa on ‘Fictionalizing Translation and Multilingualism’. What becomes very clear, very soon, is that a lot has been written since Cervantes and Borges, and that through books published just in the past decade by authors like Leila Aboulela, Jacques Gélat, Jean Paul Fosset, Hans-Ulrich Möhring, Olivier Balazuc and Jean Kwok, a ‘translational identity’ is not merely poignantly understood, but intensified in reflection.

The volume itself playfully contributes to the contexts it engages, from the motto (All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental) to the four sections being called ‘episodes’ (‘Entering theoretical territories’, ‘Travelling through sociocultural space’, ‘Experiencing agency and action’, ‘Carrying function into effect’). Given the nature of the thing investigated, a dizzying choice of methodological approaches and perspectives naturally transcends the editors’ attempts at orienting the reader: in fact, Transfiction can be best savoured at the level of individual chapter titles: Brian James Baer considers ‘Interpreting Daniel Stein: Or what happens when fictional translators get translated’ (pp. 157-175); Marija Todorova looks into both novelistic and autobiographical accounts in ‘Interpreting conflict: Memories of an interpreter’ (pp. 221-231); Alice Cesarini observes a ‘Magical mediation: The role of translation and interpreting in the narrative world of Harry Potter’ (pp. 329-344). 

And the other nineteen essays contribute to the extensive use of those ‘frames of reference’ (extratextual and intratextual levels, and no less than five different ‘narrative functional categories’) that Kaindl’s ‘Introduction’ anticipates. In her contribution to the first ‘episode’, Fotini Apostolou locates traces of the philosophical past and openings into literary creation in a short story (Todd Hasak-Lowy’s ‘The Task of This Translator’, 2005), which transplants Walter Benjamin’s well known essay of nearly the same title into present reality while questioning boundaries between genres, between originals and translations. In one of two essays discussing Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated (2002), Sabine Strümper-Krobb examines the way different narrative strands are connected by a translator figure, Alex Perchov, one of the novel’s two protagonists. As a key element of the plot, translation encounters writing (and writer, since Perchov proceeds to compose letters to an equally fictitious Jonathan Safran Foer) in a quest for ‘mediation, remembering, witnessing’ (see pp. 254-58). Michelle Woods’s essay considers the case of Willa Muir’s unpublished 1930s novel Mrs Muttoe and the Top Storey, in fact an ‘autobiographical fictionalization, or factionalization, of her experiences translating Feuchtwanger and Kafka’ (p. 289); and all the more important because it offers a ‘portrait of female identity, threatened by the bind of patriarchy, that is strengthened via the act of translation’ (ibid.). One of the most interesting pieces is arguably saved for last, with Monika Wozniak surveying images of translation and translators in science fiction novels and films. She emerges with substantial detail, both considering the limited space one is assigned in an edited volume and the enormity of material available to her, from H. G. Wells to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Thus it would be exciting to eventually see such a discussion extend to include soon-to-be-released features like Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival.

Transfiction is edited with a passion and close understanding of the issues involved, as well as the possibilities beyond; it will not be the final word in a growing field of study, but we may already count it among the key publications on the manifold ways in which, as Patricia Godbout puts it somewhere in the second ‘episode’ of this volume, the reader’s attention now shifts ‘from the translator as character to translation itself as a fictional motif’ (p. 186). It is a fine recent addition to John Benjamins ever-reliable Translation Library (BTL), and one that should be consulted by Translation Studies scholars, by translators of literature and, not least, by creative writers: the book is a host of novel ideas (pun intended).

Paschalis Nikolaou

Transfiction: Research into the Realities of Translation Fiction. Edited by Klaus Kaindl and Karlheinz Spitzl. 2014, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company [Benjamins Translation Library 110], ISBN 978-90-272-5850-2, pp. 373.

To see a list of books where translators and translation are fictionalised click here.

Some thoughts on multivocality in translation

Literary translation, as we understand it, occupies both a ‘space’ and a ‘time’ of possibilities, of different readings and their subsequent rewritings.  What we have been seeking, to some extent, and for some time now, is to pinpoint the liminal place where the translator positions herself or himself, this exhilarating ‘in-betweeness’ of the existing text and the soon-to-happen text. But not only. We have also tried to reflect on the translator’s privileged – paradoxical – status, as standing on both sides of the ‘threshold’, between the ritual reading and the fertile writing, but above all between the translator’s own literary and cultural identities and those of the ‘other’ author.

A translator’s reading, in its uniqueness – to read in order to write – will of course generate new embodiments of the text. This translational reading already incorporates the tension between the translator’s ‘experience’ of the text and the expectations of the target readership, a tension which eventually becomes verbalized, drafted, created into another language. But this language is not just one’s own  mother tongue, it also includes one’s own particular literary idiolect and, most importantly, one’s own voice – intended here not only as the uniqueness of the writing style (the lexical and stylistic preferences), but also equipped with sonority and materiality (as in Barthes) and (almost in an ethnographic way) the translator’s subjectivity, attitudes, gender, culture, education, ethnicity, identities: her or his personae.

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So that in the act of translation, the translator’s voice emerges from the interstices and strata of the text, to become more audible, and, therefore, necessarily (inter)acts with the vocal dimensions of the text (narrative, poetic, dramatic), and especially with the distinctive voices of their authors. This conversation, engendered by the translational reading, can be defined as multivocality, which we intend as the multi-voicedness  present in the text of departure, in the translation process and, finally, in the translated text. Further, something multivocal can be expressed in different words, and therefore is layered with pluralism, with ambiguity, change, transiency. ‘Voice’, therefore, is sonorous, oral/aural, individual, embodied or disembodied, but also unfixed, changeable, and context-bound.

Furthermore, the uniqueness of the translational reading does not necessarily entail privacy or isolation. On the contrary the richness of a particular reading opens onto echoes of other work the translator has written or translated before, and these memories feed into the new rewriting (more vocal layers to take into account). Some may still consider the reading phase as a private affair, yet, living in an intertextual, dialogical dimension means that every reading from its inception entails and contains another reading, a previous conversations with other texts.

2016-04-22 16.23.58And, translation, by engaging with more than one vocal subjectivity, becomes a sort of collaborative project, or communal space, where intimacy and solo-writing give way to cooperation and partnership.  Cooperation between two writers is thus present in the translation process, in which the conflation of their voices creates new meanings. Each translation then can be seen as a collaborative project which manifests itself in the voice of, one, the source text author, two, the translator,  and three, the possible, some may say ‘unavoidable’, intertextuality in which both  the source text and  its translation are dipping.  In our past study of translation as a creative form of writing, rather than lamenting the death of the author, we celebrated the birth of the translator essentially as co-author. This idea of co-authoring can be intended as nothing other than the perceptible quality of multivocality, of conflation of distinct, relative voices (the translator’s and authors’ styles, idiolects, sonority and personae) within the target text, even of different vocal narratives and perspectives within the text. Of course, this idea of translation as a collaborative project, and the translator as co-author, is from an ethical point of view problematic insofar as it can generate a dialogue full of tension, with the translator seeking control of meaning over the author, and that meaning needing to be continuously negotiated among all the subjectivities involved.

Finally, and most importantly, each translation despite being a fairly intimate and personal dialogue with the source text does not exclude, but rather calls for, the ‘other’ reader to lend her or his voice to the text and to continue this conversation, to add to the ambiguity, cacophony and renewal in this multivocality. The reader then is invited to explore further the new textual, temporal spaces opened by the translations, and enticed to step onto theses space (and time), to create new meanings.

References

Barthes, R. (1977) ‘The Grain of the Voice’, in Image, Music, Text, translated by Stephen Heath, (London: Fontana Press).

Perteghella, M. and E. Loffredo (eds)(2006) Translation and Creativity. Perspectives on Creative Writing and Translation Studies, (London and New York: Continuum 2006).

Guest Post: A Report from the Creative Translation Class: Reconceiving Andreas Embirikos

by Paschalis Nikolaou 

There is good reason for deploying creative writing exercises within the teaching of literary translation, even more so at postgraduate level and once those (often contradictory) conventions, contracts between reader, author and language mediator have been established with some clarity in students’ minds. This is not so much an innovative didactic approach but simple confirmation of text generation within literary history: from ‘poetic translation’ to interpreters and translators featuring as characters within fiction (Borges always comes to mind first) or film (from Star Wars’ C-3PO to The Interpreter), the meeting points of writing creatively and rendering literary expression in another language have proven fruitful across the centuries. Even though fables like that of a well-known Menard to Michael Marshall Smith’s The Gist (2013) may at first appear as curia, infrequent events and hybrids inside a gray zone, they can arguably be traced to the core of literary production; to essential psychologies and imperatives bringing together both creative writers and literary translators. Recognizing the part varied textual practices or frames, from Cervantes’ legendary pseudotranslation to the meaningful self-translations of Samuel Beckett or Vassilis Alexakis play within shared environments of literature demands workshop enactments of what takes place in the mind of poet and translator. Certain common spaces in the teaching of literary translation, as well as creative writing, are necessary: practitioners of both stand only to gain from awareness of what their other, does.

At the Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting of the Ionian University a concerted effort started from the 2014-2015 academic year, to bring creative writing closer to the experience of students of (literary) translation. A more detailed report on this development and on adjustments to course programmes in Corfu should occur after a few of years, with all components firmly in place; yet a brief description may be given here, followed by discussion of just one exercise at postgraduate level. In the coming academic year then, there will be an optional creative writing workshop in the Spring semester for students also following literary translation courses at undergraduate level (typically during the final two years of the degree offered at the Ionian University), in one or two small groups between 7-12 participants, around twice a month. The idea is for this to also extend to guest seminars and regular invitations to writers (and certainly, poet-translators). Especially at MA level, the meeting of worlds, regularly hinted at undergraduate classes, is more confidently simulated. One of the non-compulsory modules taught in the autumn semester is now titled Λογοτεχνική Μετάφραση και Δημιουργική Γραφή (‘Literary Translation and Creative Writing’). Again, a more detailed description of the unfolding syllabus, the progression of examples and exercises is not a matter for the present. Suffice to say, in these classes we attempt to explore the range of creative possibilities between original and translation, and in ways that indeed confirm limitations as well as freedoms, too; the real-world necessity of ‘translation proper’ is also part of this picture, just as categories and emphases of translation activity are better understood at the moment boundaries are transgressed. Meanwhile – fictional translators, poetic occurrences, the value of imitation, the manifold regions of originality as well as evolving ideas about them across time; the effort is to relay to postgraduate students a picture as complete as possible while searching, in the course of ten 2-hour classes, for voices from the field, closely attending to the ever-shifting dialogue and dynamic between authors and translators as they influence each other.

In this particular context, practical engagement produces better understanding of the conditions engendering such texts. How to open a discussion of the creative potentialities in literary translation, the range of possible movements or actions beyond fidelity? Among the approaches adopted is a direct request to ‘translate creatively’ following class discussion – and the choice of text here again is key: Αι Λέξεις (‘The Words’) is a prose poem by Andreas Embirikos (1901-1975), a key proponent of surrealism and psychoanalysis in Greece:

 

ΑΝΔΡΕΑΣ ΕΜΠΕΙΡΙΚΟΣ

ΑΙ ΛΕΞΕΙΣ

        στον Νάνο Βαλαωρίτη

Όταν καμιά φορά επιστρέφομεν από τους Παρισίους και αναπνέομεν την αύραν του Σαρωνικού, υπό το φίλιον φως και μέσα στα αρώματα της πεύκης, εν τη λιτότητι των μ,ύθων – των σημερινών και των προκατακλυσμιαίων – ως σάλπισμα πνευστών, ή ως ήχος παλμικός, κρουστός, τυμπάνων, υψώνονται πίδακες στιλπνοί, ωρισμέναι λέξεις, λέξεις-χρησμοί, λέξεις ενώσεως αψιδωτής και κορυφαίας, λέξεις με σημασίαν απροσμέτρητον δια το παρόν και δια το μέλλον, αι λέξεις «Eλελεύ», «Σε αγαπώ», και «Δόξα εν υψίστοις», και, αιφνιδίως, ως ξίφη που διασταυρούμενα ενούνται, ή ως κλαγγή αφίξεως ορμητικού μετρό εις υπογείους σήραγγας των Παρισίων, και αι λέξεις: «Chardon-Lagache», «Denfert-Rochereau», «Danton», «Odeon», «Vauban», και «Gloria, gloria in excelsis».

 

And here is a translation into English by Maria Margaronis:

 

WORDS

Sometimes when we return from Paris and breathe in the breeze of the Saronic Gulf, under the friendly light and in the scent of pines, in the simplicity of myths – both modern and antediluvian – then, like a peal of trumpets or the tight, pulsating sound of drums, particular words leap up like shining fountains, words of prophecy, words of supreme and overarching union, words of immeasurable significance for both the present and the future: the words “Elelef”, “I love you”, and “Glory in the highest”; and suddenly, like swords that, clashing, join, or like the clangourous onrush of a train arriving in Parisian subterranean tunnels, also the words “Chardon-Lagache”, “Denfert-Rochereau”, “Danton”, “Vauban”, and “Gloria, gloria in excelsis”.

 

As they prepare for their own English version, a personal history with the original is disclosed to the students: Oktana (1980), the posthumous collection where Embirikos’ poem can be found, was one of the first books for poetry I owned; the translation, one of the very first I ever attempted. Yet it has remained unfinished since the mid-90s, for a host of reasons: at first my abilities were limited, then the right tone and equivalences within the English poetic tradition couldn’t quite be found, then a fine translation by someone else was discovered after all. Regardless, my attachment to the poem was such that the project had to mutate, gradually, into experiment: towards integrations of visual language, typographical variances, hyperlinked, constantly multiplying online presentations, forking paths and translational roads not taken. It still is a work-in-progress, perhaps aptly so: untangled from the prospect of a finished, proper English existence owed to poem and poet in this case, ‘the words’ become a field of intentional non-finality where alternatives are imagined every time the draft translation is revisited. Some of these alternatives are now perhaps as surreal as some of the original’s components. ‘Embirikos’ Words’ as my version’s title, is about the only decided thing at this point.

The above comments already point to how suitable Embirikos’ poem can be for such an exercise, given exactly the surrealist frame that prompts towards a similar freeing of choices and associations in translation, a conscious extending of the mode of composition to the mode of processing literary text in another language. Combined with self-referential elements beginning with the very title, particular thematic attention to how (foreign) words and experience are linked, this is a poem where translation is recognized embedded in the very fabric of its telling.

At the same time, the sharing of my own, somewhat ambiguous, relationship with the original involves students in a process where this is certainly not just another poem to be translated, despite it not being a ‘talismanic encounter’ of their own, an individual choice. Yet they do discover personal entry points within group discussion, also while a reading of the poem by Embirikos himself is played in class, and later on, working from the solitude of their own desks. Existence of published translations is mentioned so they worry less about adhering, aspiring to or competing with them (nevertheless the one by Margaronis which can be found in The Greek Poets: Homer to the Present is handed out to them in the following weeks and once their own creative responses have been produced). Some unintentional ‘reverse psychology’ was interestingly noticed when these were handed in: despite a brief of working freely with Embirikos’ text as starting point for something radically new even, several of them compartmentalized their response to the assignment – producing a relatively faithful version alongside, and before proceeding to engage with more creative textual formations.

Rewording and reconceiving ‘The Words’ was one among the ways of making creativity and translation come closer together. A selection from the work of postgraduate students at the DFLTI can be found filed under Translations and other writings.

© (Paschalis Nikolaou) 2015

Notes on the art of text making

by Manuela Perteghella

Literary translation is here understood to be a highly creative and artistic practice, through which texts are read and imagined, created and made. With the following notes, I want to zoom in on the process of translation as ‘text making’, exploring what it means to translate creatively, and ultimately offering new ways of understanding the unique, multivocal and privileged relationship between translating and translated writer, between the translator-writer-maker and the text.

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Note number 1. Translation as a literary genre

Translation is a literary practice, which makes texts.  And translators, in the words of writer Michèle Roberts, are ‘truly writers, truly makers’ (Roberts 2001, p. xv). The poet Pierre Joris also sees the act of translation as a literary writing act per se ‘Questioning the possibility of translation means to question the very possibility of literature, of writing, of language, which is always already a translation, i.e. is both an act of translation and the result of such act’ (Joris 1995, p. 34 quoted in Loffredo and Perteghella 2008, p. 67).

I want to argue further that literary translation is not literary just because it engages with and makes literary texts, but rather as translator and academic Clive Scott has clearly put it, ‘it encourages us to explore and initiate new forms, to create new spaces’ (2000, p. xi). Scott indeed presents a refreshing view, that of not limiting the idea of literariness only to the source and target texts – to translate a literary source text by making a literary target text – but to extend this literariness to the process of translation itself, calling translation ‘a literary language’ (Scott 2000, p. xi).

The act of translation therefore would necessarily develop new literary spaces, or ‘textual landscapes’, use available resources, but also experiment with new forms. Therefore  the idea of translation itself as a ‘literary genre’ slowly emerges promoting the notion of translated literature as a new literary and artistic composition.

Note number 2. Translation is personal

The choice of what text to translate, even whether to accept a commission or not, is mostly, I would like to argue, a personal one, which supersedes even financial reasons.  We may have an affinity at a certain point in our life with a particular writer. Some of you will be familiar with the Earl of Roscommon, who back in the seventeenth century, put it like this: ‘Seek a Poet who your way do’s bend, And chuse an Author as you chuse a Friend’ (The Earl of Roscommon 1685).  There can be for example, a connection with the literary ecology that the foreign language writer has developed, which in turn may find echoes in the writer-translator’s own work, his or her own narratives and themes. Further, the translator, by translating certain texts, becomes intimate not only with that particular text but with the writer’s own poetics. Susan Bassnett even talks of ‘falling in love’ and ‘falling out of love’ with a specific writer and their work (Bassnett 2006, p. 177) at distinct times in a translator’s life.  She gives the example of her translations of Pirandello when she was in her twenties, and whose intellectualising appealed to her at that stage of her life. Then she fell out of love with him. More recently, another bond developed, that with Argentinean poet Alejandra Pizarnik. ‘I discovered another writer, a very different writer, whose moods chimed with my own in some inexplicable way’ (Bassnett 2006, p. 178). As intimate readers of texts we interpret them and find affinities, reflected perhaps in our own life experiences. These particular texts generate certain emotions which spur us to translate them, but also to translate these in a particular way, to live intimately with them, to inhabit them for a while. It’s really a love affair.

Note number 3. Translation as dialogue

Translation is the visible engagement with the source text, its words, its stylistic devices, punctuation, in other word with its material language, but also the immaterial emotions, imagery, nuances, that the use of this materiality create. Scott observes that this engagement ‘offers the translator the opportunity to write his response to a text, to embody an experience of reading’ (Scott 2000, p. xi).  I have discussed elsewhere (Perteghella 2013) how the ability to respond to a text, and to write this response, even from a different, alternative and experimental perspective, provides a further development in the relationship between translator and text, translator and creative writer, that of entering into a ‘dialogue’: this dialogue can be full of tension, the voice of the source text writer interacting with that of the target text writer (Loffredo and Perteghella 2008, p.14).

The translator, positioned in a dialogic context, becomes a participant, a speaker that speaks back to the source text poet. Translation as this resourceful intervention is therefore not seen as unethical appropriation of the source text, nor as a cannibalistic practice, nor as a gratuitous textual manipulation but rather a dialogic exploration of the text, which leads to its eventual transformation. It is the ability to respond, to enter into a dialogue in a more creative and critical way.

There is also another argument. The responsibility to a text, as both the ability to write a response to it and the answerability of the translator-writer-maker to the creation of the new text, also means, as Jean Boase-Beier clearly puts it ‘to understand how the poem works’ (Boase-Beier 1999, p. 82). Boase-Beier goes on to maintain: ‘without this, there can be no translation. Understanding how the poem works means understanding the nature of poetic language as language in which there is a special relationship between form and meaning’ (p.82.). It is with a process of understanding that translation is able to begin and later to develop into a dialogic model. This understanding starts the process of translation by unwrapping the textual meanings, identifying the stylistic devices used, although not necessarily reproduced at this stage. It is a stage of ‘opening up’, of reading aloud, of sketching what we think this word may mean, of retracing how the writer has developed his or her text. But also, of incorporating our response and initiating a conversation with the text/writer. We translate certain words with words that have been impressed in our psyche and tongue by our familiar usage, with words found often in our own idiolect, but also by the other texts that we read and have translated. The poet and classical translator Josephine Balmer notices how other texts we read at the time of writing become ‘subsumed into the poem as a more contemporary point of reference’ (Balmer 2006, p. 192).

In our first draft multiple choices for words are evaluated, and this dialogic first attempt can be made visible on the page, the draft behaving at times like a gloss, where foreign and familiar language are positioned side by side, or where multiple possibilities pop out on the page in text boxes, comments, parentheses, brackets, and so forth. The possible intertextual references in the source texts are also researched and made visible and commented upon. The text fragments, comments, questions, blank spaces, acts as what Ron Padgett calls ‘an interlinear commentary’ (Ron Padgett 2008, p. 106), that is reading or revision notes which externalise the dialogic aspect of translation itself, and that may be incorporated later on, in subsequent drafts. But why show these fragments in the first draft? Why externalise the internal, mental dialogue on the page? In his own experimental translations, Scott incorporates ‘manuscript marginalia’ because:

The marginal space is … the guarantor of the here and the now of enunciation, of spontaneous association, metadiscourse, unworked possibility, unpremeditated response … We begin to imagine a textualization of the pre-textual, the textual and the post-textual all in one (Scott, 2006b, p.108)

More to the point, the notes on this first draft act also as a dialogue with the reader, of what the translator has done to the text and why. These could be used as a sort of hypertext to the poem, so that the reader could choose whether to follow or explore these notes further or not.  Below there’s an example of such first draft, the opening up of the textual, literary and cultural dialogue which I made of Traversando la Maremma toscana, (Crossing the Tuscan Maremma) by the Italian poet Giosuè Carducci. Carducci was brought up in the Maremma and wrote the sonnet many decades later, in 1887, after crossing this landscape on one of his train journeys from Livorno to Rome. The poet is moved to see again the places where he spent the happiest years of his life, his childhood and youth, when he had dreams that he thought would be fulfilled. And while the familiar aspect of this land, suddenly recognized through childhood memories, brings smile and perhaps a tear or two of joy, it also brings regret with it, as the comparison with his present life raises feelings of sadness and resignation. Indeed, only death is certain and possibly nearby. Yet, the beauty of the land, the fog wrapping the hills, the green of the plain, the smiling, benign nature, also brings an unexpected peace to the poet:

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The presence of Italian language in my first draft is a visible link to the text of departure, and of course it also presents complex words and concepts which must be recreated in English. The possible intertextual reference to Dante is  commented upon. There are also two textual fragments which I have translated from another of Carducci’s poems, ‘Davanti San Guido’, where again the poet is on a train on one of his journeys, and sees his childhood landscape, this time tall cypresses who invite him to stay with them, as only nature is able to soothe, albeit temporarily, his internal struggles. In this first draft therefore intertextual references to Carducci’s other texts (and my own reading/memory of Carducci’s work) are also activated. Most importantly, the process of translation itself, some of it perhaps traditionally happening only mentally, is instead made visible, embodied in the writing.

Note number 4. Translation as shapeshifter

Michèle Roberts sees translation as a form of magic capable of ‘metamorphosis’(Roberts, xvi),  one text gets changed into another, where the subjectivity of the translator will be more or less visible, but never absent. As we have seen above, Scott believes that translation encourages us to explore new forms (Scott 2000). For example, the juxtaposition of verbal and non-verbal texts in experimental translations allows us to explore different channels in which to express or contextualise our response of the text, even opening up a dialogue between modes, such as verbal and pictorial composition.

Furthermore, the cultural context in which we translate is one influenced by a multimodal culture, in particular an increasingly visual culture. So, while the drafting period has mostly focused on the textual, paratextual, intertextual or even hypertextual levels, translators should be ready to explore and transform texts by using, mixing, and experimenting with different media to express these textual levels.In poetry, because of this genre’s inherent multimodality, besides the verbal channel, its oral, aural and in some cases visual channels can and should also be activated (Loffredo and Perteghella 2008, p.17). A translation of a poem could therefore be accompanied by moving images and texts, as  used in the filmic poetry genre

Note number 5. Translation as movement

Movement in translation is expressed through progression through time, through the drafting process, but also different translations of the poem. In the drafting process, the ensuing corrections, alterations or restructurings can be perceived as acts of self-writing, ‘whereby the ‘self’ writes and rewrites itself’ (Loffredo and Perteghella 2008, p.97); the linearity implied in the drafting process can instead give way to what Scott calls ‘a whole bundle of virtualities’ (Scott 2006c, p. 35) that is the virtual spaces of reading which enact (different) possibilities on the blank page. Indeed, rather than choosing one ‘final’ version, all the different readings, with their changes and restructurings, can be made visible at once, offering the reader a complete experience of the textual possibilities. Translation also embodies movement in the sense of the metaphorical and actual journey of the text border-crossing cultures, personalities, and, of course, languages.  

Note number 6. Translation as creative practice

The literary translation envisaged here advocates translation not solely as a linguistic skill and/or a powerful cultural practice, but essentially as a creative writing practice, shapeshifting, moving around borders, working with materials and materiality, travelling through genres, zooming in at the process itself and at the translator’s subjectivity marked and visible within the ‘new’ text and in the different drafts this subjectivity produces (Loffredo and Perteghella 2006). Creativity explores new spaces, negotiates, invites the writer-translator to experiment with a variety of modes (the verbal, the visual, the oral, the aural). The shapeshifting, moving power of translation can be seen for example in Eugenia Loffredo’s visual and verbal translation of How To Face Death’ by Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade. Our collaborative translation of the myth of Galatea ‘Written on her Ivory Skin‘ also opens up not only a textual dialogue with its previous verbal translations (Dryden’s and Hughes’) but also with a visual mode spawned by the textural descriptions of the source text.

Below follows my recent creative translation of another of Carducci’s poems ‘Ancient Lament’ (Pianto antico) composed in 1871 in memory of his three-year old son, who had died the year before.  The Italian poem is structured in four quatrains, with rhyming scheme ABBC. Its rhythm recalls that of a lullaby, though its subject matter, the death of a child, creates a contrast with the soothing effect. Thus, the poem is sweet and harrowing, calming and desolate at the same time. The pomegranate tree the child used to play with, has become alive again in the heat of the summer (the poet uses nouns such as ‘light’, ‘green’, ‘warmth’), yet the garden has become silent, lonely, as the boy is now buried in the cold, black earth, where he can never feel the June sunshine again or be awaken by parental love. Death is for Carducci definitive and hopeless; there are no religious undertones. Having first read this poem as a child (and learnt it by heart too) I wanted to keep that lullaby rhythm, but also recreate the vivid imagery of the tree and its red pomegranate fruit in my mind as I first read it (and imagined it)  many years ago. I also felt I needed to highlight the role of the garden as both playground and grave of the child, as this particular feature is what stayed with me for so long. The result is a mixed media text using the techniques of collage and watercolour on watercolour paper:

Ancient LamentCopyright © Manuela Perteghella 2013

Naturally, ethical issues towards the reader, in particular the non-specialist reader, are raised in these creative, experimental translations often of non-experimental texts. Such translations, some have rightly argued, cannot be intelligible, or fully understandable ‘without reference to the original’ (Procter 1999, pp.12-13) and therefore ‘these texts, then, can only be appreciated by those who in actual fact have no need of them’ (Procter 1999, p. 13). Indeed, our ideal reader would be someone who first of all is aware of the translator’s inevitable subjectivity within the text, of the dialogic quality of language and creativity, and trained in reading experimental texts.

Of course, one way of including the non-specialist reader into understanding and enjoying creative translation is in fact to show its literary gestation, the drafting process, without being obsessed by the illusion of the ‘polished, finished’ product, and to encourage readers to read and view multiple versions of the same text. This clearly entails an understanding of how translation evolves and changes – shapeshifts – by literary publishers too.  Further, the proliferation of e-books and digital reading devices could aid the publication of multimodal translations.

Then there’s the argument of fidelity towards the source text and its writer. To see translation as the personal ability to respond to a text is, perhaps, one of the ways forward. To redefine fidelity is another. But this means we must go back to the core issue of what translation is or should be. And definitions of translation, as well as of fidelity and faithfulness, are subject to change and differ widely from culture to culture, and from group to group.

By working within contemporary notions of translation as a creative enterprise, we can attempt a definition of our own idea of translation as a literary process of text-making whereby we are able to reimagine texts, transform them, even using different modes, if our response to them take us there.

I delivered an extended version of this paper at the conference ‘Reading the Target: Translation as Translation’, University of East Anglia, 23 March 2013.

References

Bassnett, Susan (2006), ‘Writing and Translating’ in Susan Bassnett and Peter Bush (eds) The Translator as Writer (London and New York: Continuum) pp. 173-183.

Boase-Beier, Jean (1999/2000) ‘Translating Poetry’ In Other Words, Autumn/Winter 1999/2000, no. 13/14, pp.82-86

Loffredo Eugenia and Manuela Perteghella, ‘Introduction’ in Eugenia Loffredo and Manuela Perteghella (eds) Translation and Creativity. Perspectives on Creative Writing and Translation Studies (London and New York: Continuum 2006), pp.1-16.

Loffredo Eugenia and Manuela Perteghella (2008) (eds), One Poem in Search of a Translator: Rewriting ‘Les Fenetres’ by Apollinaire, (Bern: Peter Lang).

Padgett, Ron (2008) ‘A Note on Les Fenêtres’ in E. Loffredo and M. Perteghella (eds), One Poem in Search of a Translator: Rewriting ‘Les Fenetres’ by Apollinaire, (Bern: Peter Lang)pp.105-110.

Perteghella, Manuela (2013) ‘Translation as Creative Writing’ in G. Harper (ed.) The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Creative Writing, Blackwell.

Pope R. 2005. Creativity: Theory, History, Practice. London and New York: Routledge.

Procter, A. H. (1999) ‘Is an ‘ethics of difference’ ethical? A consideration of the rights and responsibilities of the translator with reference to feminist translation’ in P. Papoutsaki et al (eds), Norwich Papers, Literary translation: Theory and Practice, vol. Vii, Sept 1999, pp.7-18.

Roberts, M. (2001)’Introduction’, Rearranging the World, the British Centre for Literary Translation, pp.xiii-xviii.

Roscommon, Earl of (1685) ‘An essay on Translated Verse’ in T.R. Steiner (ed) (1975) English Translation Theory, 1650-1800 (Assen: Van Gorcum), pp.77-78.

Scott, Clive (2000) ‘Introduction’ in David Mollett, Paschalis Nikolaou, Anna Watz (eds) Norwich Papers, Studies in Literary Translation, Translation and Creativity, vol. 8, Sept 2000, pp.ix-xvi.

Scott, Clive (2006a), Translating Rimbaud’s Illuminations, Exeter: Exeter University Press).

Scott, Clive (2006b) ‘Translating the Literary: Genetic Criticism, Text Theory and Poetry’ in Susan Bassnett and Peter Bush (eds) The Translator as Writer (London: Continuum, 2006), pp.106-118.

Scott, Clive (2006c), ‘Translation and the Spaces of Reading’ in Eugenia Loffredo and Manuela Perteghella (eds) Translation and Creativity. Perspectives on Creative Writing and Translation Studies,(London and New York: Continuum), pp.33-46.

The Translation of Spanish and South American writers

We are pleased to announce our second theme on translation and the art of text making. For the next three months we are going to explore the translation of Hispanic and South American literature.  What does it mean to engage with and translate such a diverse literature? Which are the contemporary voices in fiction, poetry, theatre or other genres, emerging from these geographical and cultural areas? How are, and how can, these voices be translated, re-made, textured?

We are delighted to announce an impressive line-up of guest bloggers and contributors for this theme, who will share with us the joys and challenges of translating such texts. Their contributions and insights will be posted from June to September.

Alongside these contributors, the Studio strongly invites anybody to join this Latin American journey. If you translate and/or are interested in Spanish, Central and South American literature in current times, do share with us your ideas and what it means to translate these literatures. Also, to explore new perspectives in translating this kind of texts and push their boundaries, we invite you to try out a creative approach. You can post your own experimental translations (and also non-experimental) of Hispanic and Brazilian writers to thecreativeliterarystudio@gmail.com. These could be a poem or an extract from a play or a novel, as well as creative non-fiction.

We hope you can join us on this literary journey!

Finally, there are events, articles and resources on Spanish and South Americal writing (and its translation) on Links and Blogs, Resources and News.